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Whacky Politics

“Under every stone lurks a politician.”

Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae

Sarah Palin, who symbolizes the folly of the 2010 political scene, is not without competition from other inhabitants of the loony bin. (Her latest contribution is to etymology. Commenting on the Muslim mosque the construction of which near the World Trade Center site has created controversy, she said New Yorkers should “refudiate it.” When criticized for her English usage she said on twitter: “English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too.”

The American Constitution Party, which has a special place in the loony bin, has come into the news because of a quixotic series of events that took place in the Colorado Republican primary contest among aspirants to the office of governor of the state of Colorado. The two Republican candidates come with self-constructed infirmities. One, Scott McInnis, is a self-acknowledged plagiarist, who was paid $300,000 for his stolen work. His competitor is Dan Maes who sees in the bicycle-sharing program in Denver a “strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty.” The program, said Mr. Maes, “is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms.”

Former Republican, Tom Tancredo, decided to rescue the state from these two men and entered the gubernatorial race under the banner of the American Constitution Party, bringing prominence to a party whose platform includes abolishing the Food and Drug Administration, the Internal Revenue Service , the Departments of Education and Energy and the Federal Election Commission. Notwithstanding its palpable wackiness, the Constitution Party doesn’t hold a candle to the Republican Party of Iowa.

Iowa is the state that has the distinction, every four years, of selecting the next person to be the president of the United States. Mindful of its importance, the Republican Party of that state takes great pains to carefully articulate its beliefs so as to be worthy of the place in the electoral process it enjoys. In its most recent state convention it adopted a platform that consisted of 387 planks and principles. The second statement of principles that begin the document sets the tone by solemnly declaring that “America is Good.” Some things in America, however, are not good. Paragraph 2.09 says that “we are opposed to protecting mountain lions, cougars, wolves, elk, moose, and black bear or similar dangerous animals.” Paragraph 2.08 deals with semantics in a way that is probably mysterious to a non-Iowan. It says that “We support the definition of manure as a natural fertilizer.” It is not clear who is attacking the definition.

The most important section of the platform is 7.19 . That section calls for the “reintroduction and ratification of the original 13th Amendment, not the 13th Amendment in today’s Constitution.” There is considerable difference in the two versions and an excellent article by Jerry Adler in Newsweek contains a comprehensive description of the earlier version. The 13th Amendment now in the Constitution abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude (except as criminal punishment) and gives Congress the power to enact appropriate legislation. The drafters of Iowa’s Republican party favor what they believe to be an earlier version that has nothing to do with slavery. It was introduced in 1810 by Sen. Philip Reed of Maryland and provided: “If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honour, or shall, without the consent of Congress accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them.” (This is not the same as stripping citizenship from children of illegal immigrants by getting rid of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a possibility such luminaries as Senators McCain, Graham, and others believe Congress should consider.)

Iowans believe that this Amendment was adopted and should be in the Constitution in place of the one that is now there. Slavery being gone, there is no real reason to have an amendment abolishing it nor would its abolition reverse emancipation. According to Mr. Adler, he asked the state Republican Communications Director, Danielle Plogman, whether Iowans wanted to reverse emancipation. She assured him that was not the purpose. It’s a safe bet none of those voting for the restoration of the old 13Th Amendment (that Mr. Adler’s column suggests was never the real 13th Amendment) realized that they would be abolishing the abolition of slavery amendment in favor of protecting the country from citizens receiving honors from “any emperor, king, prince or foreign power.”

The loonies are on a rampage. Only time will tell whether the voters have the strength to withstand their onslaught.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

 

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